Harvard Announces Pioneering Collaboration with Merck & Co., Inc. to Advance Osteoporosis Research

- Research on bone formation could potentially pave the way to new therapies -

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--()--Harvard Universitys Office of Technology Development today announced that it has signed a multi-year license and sponsored research agreement with Merck & Co., Inc. to advance an innovative line of research focused on developing new therapies for the treatment of osteoporosis.

Under the agreement, Merck will fund ongoing research in the laboratory of Laurie Glimcher, MD, the Irene Heinz Given Professor of Immunology at Harvard School of Public Health, and a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and will be granted a license to certain specific molecules that may arise from this project. Financial terms were not disclosed.

With the aging of the population and increasing prevalence of osteoporosis, it is critical that we develop new innovative ways to address this serious health problem, Dr. Glimcher said. Our early research into the molecular pathways that lead to bone growth in adults has uncovered novel ways in which we might enhance bone formation, with the goal of aiding those who are not well served by current osteoporosis therapies.

Glimchers emerging research sheds new light on the key molecular events that underlie bone formation in adults, yielding insights that open new potential avenues for intervening with therapies designed to treat or prevent osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a serious, widespread, and growing health problem that affects more than 75 million adults worldwide.

"Pioneering research from Dr Glimcher's laboratory has already identified several key mediators of bone growth. By working together, we now hope to translate these important scientific findings into the development therapies for the treatment of diseases of low bone mass," said Alan B. Ezekowitz, MBChB, D.Phil., senior vice president and franchise head, Bone, Respiratory, Immunology, and Endocrine, Merck Research Laboratories. "This collaboration underscores our strategy of building alliances with world leaders in our priority areas of research."

Glimchers groundbreaking research has elucidated the role of a recently identified regulator in adult bone formation. As described by Glimcher and her colleagues, this adaptor protein, or master switch, regulates the growth of cells called osteoblasts that are responsible for bone formation. Building on this and subsequent discoveries, the Merck-Harvard research collaboration will seek to identify compounds that can effectively intervene in this pathway to enhance the growth of osteoblasts in humans, with the goal of strengthening bone and staving off osteoporosis.

"This major collaboration reflects our continued dedication to ensuring that our facultys leading-edge research advances rapidly into clinical development, and ultimately, medical practice," said Isaac T. Kohlberg, senior associate provost and chief technology development officer, who heads Harvard's Technology Development Office. "We have found an ideal partner in Merck, a leader in the development and commercialization of therapies for osteoporosis.

About Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue, leading to bone fragility and risk of fracture, particularly in the hip, spine and wrist. Osteoporosis presently affects more than 75 million people worldwide, with more than 34 million at risk in the United States alone. As the population ages, the prevalence of osteoporosis is on the rise. Osteoporosis-related fractures are frequently associated with a cascade of other medical problems; currently 20 percent of the more than 1.5 million people who suffer an osteoporosis-related hip fracture die within one year. The commercial market for therapeutic products to treat osteoporosis is approximately $7 billion.

About Harvard Universitys Office of Technology Development

The Harvard Office of Technology Development (OTD) is responsible for all activities pertaining to the evaluation, patenting and licensing of new inventions and discoveries made at Harvard. OTD also serves to further the development of Harvard technologies through the establishment of sponsored research collaborations with industry. OTDs mission is to promote the public good by fostering innovation and translating new inventions made at Harvard into useful products available and beneficial to society.

Contacts

Harvard School of Public Health
Todd Datz, 617-432-3952
Assistant Director of Communications
tdatz@hsph.harvard.edu

Contacts

Harvard School of Public Health
Todd Datz, 617-432-3952
Assistant Director of Communications
tdatz@hsph.harvard.edu